BIBLICAL INSIGHTS in 500 words
Jesus Breaks Down and Cries
Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.
In many parts of the world, people mourn their dead with cries and sobs and sad music. Psychologists point out that we all carry deep grief of one sort or another. Times of public mourning with family and friends surface grief and help us deal with our sorrows.
In Western culture, we are more likely to hide our emotions. I remember an older woman in my first church that told me that when her husband of many decades passed away, “I did not shed a tear.” She was proud of this fact. In truth, grief that is unexpressed and unfelt haunts a person for a lifetime.
When Paul told us that we should not grieve like people who did not have hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13) he was not saying that we should not grieve at all. There is hopeless grief and there is hopeful grief. Grief that is grounded in hope is still grief and can be very bitter.
Jesus understands grief. When he say Mary “weeping, . . . he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and
There are levels of meaning here.
- We can say that tears demonstrate the humanity of Jesus. He is real flesh and blood and feels what human beings feel.
- At a deeper level, the Word of God weeps like a baby at the grave of his friend. We are looking not just a flesh and blood human being but the Word of God Incarnate (John 1:1–14). God weeps with the world’s tears. Jesus “has born our grief’s and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). He is a “man of suffering and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3),
- At a deepest level, we see the grieving heart of Jesus as he faces his own death that will come in just a few days. Critics at his cross will taunt him, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One” (Luke 23:35). But it is only through his death and through his sharing the common fate of all humanity that the world can be saved. The tears that run down the face of Jesus are grief for the death he is to share.
What does this mean for us? Mary said to Jesus “come and see” (vs. 34).
- “Come and see” – this is how Jesus called his first disciples when they ask where he was staying. “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying (John 1:39). Our call to faith is to come and follow Jesus.
- “Come and see” – Also, in trust, like Mary, we cry out to Jesus, “come and see” (John 11:34) as we lead him to the place of our deepest grief and sorrow. Jesus replies as he leads us through the sorrow and into the light and love of resurrection.
*I am indebted to NT Wright, John for Everyone, for insights into this text.